What is Vegetable Tanned Leather?

Here at Rudy & Lou, all of our products are handcrafted by artisans in the rolling hills of Tuscany, idyllic right? But there’s something even more impressive about our beautiful range, they are all vegetable tanned in oak barrels. But we guess you are wondering what on earth that means..

Vegetable tanned leather refers to the method in which the calf hide is ‘tanned’ into the stunning leather you see today and throughout this website. It is called ‘vegetable’ tanning because only natural materials such as tree bark are used throughout the tanning process. This process has been around for centuries, in fact it is the oldest leather tanning method known to man. 

At Rudy & Lou, we use oak bark to tan our leather, which creates durable, water repellent leather with lots of body, perfect for our pet accessories! And because vegetable tanning is an all-natural process, it is also eco-friendly. Winner winner, dog’s dinner! 

So since we are learning so much today, let’s have a look at what this fascinating process entails

Step 1 – Pre-Tanning

This is where the calf hides are prepped before tanning starts. They are rehydrated for a couple of days, and all of the hair is removed. Then the whole of the hide is cut into two separate pieces, called ‘sides’.

Step 2 – Tanning

This is where the magic happens, and where our hides turn into the softest calf leather. The ‘sides’ are placed in large vats filled with ‘tannins’. As mentioned, all of our products are tanned using oak tree bark, which is a natural tannin. The hides spend 2-3 weeks soaking in the tanning liquid, but they must be tended to regularly to ensure full absorption.

When the hides are removed, the excess moisture is removed and they are shaved to the desired thickness from the back side. 

Step 3 – Dyeing, Hot Stuffing, Drying

The vegetable tanned hides are now a  blank canvas ready to be infused with rich colours. The hides are dyed in huge drums that rotate in the air. 

The leather is then ‘hot stuffed’ which is a process where the leather is stuffed to the core with waxes that give it the rich colour and ensure a durable end product. 

After hot stuffing, the hides are then dried and staked (staking softens the leather up ready for it to be moulded into our beautiful accessories).

Step 4 – Finishing the leather 

In this final stage, the hides are sprayed with more waxes and a sealant for protection.

The hides are now ready to be transported across the rolling hills of Tuscany from the tanning  house in Santa Croche, to the artisan workshop near the quaint and historic town of Vinci. 

All in all, the leather tanning process is very labour intensive and takes around 6 weeks in total from start to finish. But the end result is so worth it, super soft, durable leather in the richest colours! 

Want to see the finished product? Shop the Rudy & Lou range of luxury leather pet accessories here.